The questions will continue for injured Woods

By Associated PressMay 18, 2011, 1:34 am
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Four days after Tiger Woods declared himself unfit to play more than nine holes at The Players Championship, he said he expected to be at the U.S. Open next month.

“Will do all I can to get there,” he said on Twitter.

That only shows how far away he is from catching, much less passing, the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

The question used to be whether Woods was going to win a major.

Now it’s whether he’ll even play.

Only he knows how badly his left knee and left Achilles are injured, and Woods rarely has been willing to offer more than the bare minimum about his health, if that much. He withdrew last year from The Players Championship with a neck injury he said had been bothering him for a month. He said he ruptured his right Achilles in December 2008, yet never mentioned it until 16 months later.

It’s no longer his pursuit of Nicklaus that leads to speculation. It’s his health, too.

Woods skipped one tournament (Quail Hollow) because he wanted to give a “minor injury” time to heal. He withdrew from the next one (Players Championship) without even getting to the 10th hole and with a nine-hole score of 42 that ranks among his worst.

The biggest change with Woods is the perception of him.

Had this happened five years ago, the focus would have been entirely on his injury, not the score on his card. Yet there was plenty of chatter among players last week that Woods might not have been so quick to leave had he not been 6 over.

Opinions about whether he could catch Nicklaus used to be based on his form.

In an online survey for readers, Golf Digest asked if they thought he would break the record. This was after Woods won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2002, and 73 percent said “yes.” Two years later, when Woods had gone eight majors without winning and started to work with Hank Haney, the magazine asked the same question, and 71 percent said “no.”

Such is the fickle nature of fans.

But it’s different now.

This isn’t only a matter of Woods changing his swing. He hasn’t been the same since he was caught cheating on his wife, which led to divorce nine months later. There was a neck injury last year, a cortisone shot in his right ankle over Christmas, and now it’s the left knee and left Achilles from the shot he hit in the third round of the Masters.

The key indicators are shocking.

In the 21 stroke-play events dating to his return at the 2010 Masters, Woods has not won a tournament, has finished in the top 10 only seven times and has $2.1 million in earnings. In the same number of events prior to his downfall – on Thanksgiving night in 2009 – he had eight wins, 17 finishes in the top 10 and earned $13.4 million.

Before his troubles, 55 percent of his rounds were in the 60s. Since then, only 34 percent of his rounds have been in the 60s. His scoring average is 1.8 strokes higher, which equates to seven more shots per tournaments.

Now mix in the uncertainty of his health.

Can he win five more majors to break Nicklaus’ record? Can he win 12 more tournaments to break the PGA Tour record for most wins by Sam Snead?

“I thought it was a slam dunk before Thanksgiving a year-and-a-half ago,” two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said. “I started having serious doubts after his withdrawal last week. He’s losing valuable time right now with injuries, swing coaches, reinventing himself. You don’t have that much time in a career to break those kind of records.

“For him to come back after all of this, it’s going to be a hell of a mountain to climb.”

Making the climb even taller is the emergence of so many young players – Graeme McDowell at 31 is the oldest of the last four major champions – and the diminishing aura of Woods. He could get that back by winning, but right now Woods can’t even contend.

If his head still is not in the game – maybe that’s why he’s missing all those putts – he now has recurring leg problems.

The Achilles appears to be the biggest problem. Swing coach Sean Foley said he was surprised that Woods looked so sharp during practice rounds last week considering he had gone a month without practicing. On the final hole Woods played at Sawgrass, he hit his driver 40 yards by PGA champion Martin Kaymer. But when Woods climbed out of a bunker behind the green, he appeared to be taking baby steps.

Playing last week probably was a mistake. If Woods had skipped The Players, he would have had three more weeks to let the Achilles heal properly heading into a summer of three majors. Now he’s back where he was.

There were four weeks between the Masters and The Players. There are four weeks between The Players and the U.S. Open. It could be that Woods will be in the same shape at Congressional as he was last week at Sawgrass – one bad swing away from that “chain reaction” in his left leg that caused him to quit after nine holes.

Former PGA champion Paul Azinger once thought Woods for sure would break Snead’s record of 82 Tour wins (Woods is at 71) and probably would top Nicklaus in the majors, although he never thought it was a lock.

Now he’s not so sure about either record.

“The big unknown is the severity of the problem,” Azinger said. “The mental aspect still must be addressed – having the ability to find someone he can talk and talk with. He’s angry at himself, angry at the world, angry at people tearing him down. But physically, for the first time, I’m starting to wonder.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.